World Health Organization Determines Cell Phones May Cause Cancer

A study released today suggests that cell phones are “possibly carcinogenic” to humans. The study, conducted by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, did not conduct new research, but instead reexamined existing research that studied the effect radiofrequency magnetic fields have on humans.

In order to conduct research on the health affects of cell phone radiation, the IARC reviewed available research that had been conducted on other devices that expose humans to radiofrequency magnetic fields, including microwaves, radios, television, and other types of wireless communication. 31 scientists from 14 countries were involved in reviewing the research from May 24th-May 31st.

In a statement posted on its website, the IARC notes that “Over the last few years, there has been mounting concern about the possibility of adverse health effects resulting from exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, such as those emitted by wireless communication devices.” The statement continues on to add that “The evidence was reviewed critically, and overall evaluated as being limited among users of wireless telephones for glioma and acoustic neuroma, and inadequate to draw conclusions for other types of cancers.” The statement also points out that the number of cell phone users is “large and growing, particularly among young adults and children.” The current estimate of cell phone users is 5 billion globally.

Based on the evidence, the IARC has put cell phones in a category called 2B, indicating that cell phones are possibly carcinogenic to humans. Category 2B means there is either “limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and less than sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals”, or vice versa.

The study found that cell phone radiation puts people at risk for a type of brain tumor known as glioma. Gliomas are a type of tumor that are most commonly found in the brain and are accountable for 1.3 percent of cancer cases in the United States. The research has also suggested that cell phone radiation could cause acoustic neuroma, which is a noncancerous brain tumor with around 3,000 cases diagnosed each year.

Dr. Jonathan Samet, the chairman of the research group, notes that “the conclusion means there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk.” The IARC points out the importance of conducting additional research into the health effects of cell phone radiation. The findings of the study will be published in the IARC Monographs as part of a series that focuses on physical agents.

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